As Colombia celebrated their fourth goal on Tuesday night, the nation’s supporters went wild with joy as their side sealed a third win from three matches in World Cup Group C.
There would be one Colombian in particular who we can assume was genuinely happy for his side, while also feeling a touch of regret as he watched his compatriots storming to yet another victory in Brazil. That man would be Radamel Falcao, a.k.a. Mr Replaceable.
The Colombia striker is widely considered one of the best in the world, yet his most recent teams have shone even without him in the starting XI. Whether Colombia, Atlético de Madrid or AS Monaco, when Falcao has gone, his teams have improved.
Let´s consider Atlético Madrid firstly. There was outcry among the Rojiblanca faithful last
summer when Falcao was sold to Monaco last summer after leading the club to the Copa del Rey with a win over Real Madrid at the Bernabéu. The Colombian played a major role in that match and the fans partied like it was 1999 (the last time they’d defeated their noisy neighbours) with the fans singing his name.
Three months later, the 2013/14 season stared and their star was gone. Few would have predicted they’d miss Falcao so little, however. With David Villa and Diego Costa brought to the fore to replace Falcao, the pair delivered and delivered the Spanish league and a Champions League final place. Of those fans who shed tears when Falcao left, how many thought of his name when excitedly travelling to the European final in Lisbon?
So Atlético didn’t miss the Colombian, but they were not the only club to actually improve without El Tigre in the team. Even Monaco managed to kick on in Ligue 1 this past season when Falcao retreated to the sidelines in January with the knee injury that has seen him miss this World Cup.
Despite Falcao scoring nine goals in the 17 matches that he played in for the club, Claudio Ranieri’s team only won 53% of those matches. With the Colombian out of the picture, the side’s win percentage jumped up to 66% with 14 wins out of 21 league matches to end the season without their most expensive signing.
Without Falcao, Monaco’s impressive end to the season saw the newly promoted club finish just nine points behind PSG in second spot.
Despite the success of Falcao’s former clubs after his departure from the first teams, many assumed his absence would be too much to cope with at an international level and that the ‘golden generation’ of Colombia would simply crumble without their top scorer from qualifying. That, however, has certainly not been the case.
James Rodríguez, Jackson Martínez and Juan Cuadrado have set Group C alight and Colombia have gone from dark horses to tournament favourites after setting up a Last 16 match with a Uruguay side likely to lack their usual bite without the soon-to-be-suspended Luis Suárez.
The attacking trio of Rodríguez, Martínez and Cuadrado have netted six of Los Cafeteros’ eight goals so far and the side has had no problem in collecting nine points, even being able to give their 43 year-old goalkeeper an outing on Tuesday.
Things will certainly become more difficult for a side which would face Brazil or Chile in a potential quarter final, either of which would provide a tough challenge. It is all very exciting, though.
Just as the Champions League final or the second half of Monaco’s Ligue 1 season, however, these are exciting times for all but one man – Mr Replaceable. Radamel Falcao.
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